Preparing your toddler’s meal for daycare or school shouldn’t be so hard. As parents, you’re constantly on the search to make things easier for things like meal preparations. A bento box could be the solution. Their compartments will let you know just how much to serve. You can also encourage your child to eat more when they see that their food is arranged in a thoughtful and creative way. They are a great way of combining convenience and the conscious effort of providing the best nutritional value for your toddlers.
What is a Bento Box?
As a container, a bento or a bento box has compartments for different types of food. Bento boxes are made of different materials like bamboo, glass, lacquered wood, plastic, and even stainless steel. As a meal itself, a bento consists of different varieties of food. For example, in Japan, it usually includes rice, vegetables, and meat.
Where did they come from?
Bento boxes originated from Japan, but the term was inspired by the slang Chinese word biàndāng, which means convenient. Their origin can be traced all the way back to the fifth century. From dried rice kept in bags for day workers, the meal transitioned to boxed meals prepared for outdoor activities like picnics. Centuries later, when microwaves were invented, bento boxes became available options from train stations and convenience stores.
The bento box at present
Now, bento boxes are seen as thoughtfully created lunch boxes for children and adults. As part of the Japanese culture, it can be classified into many styles, such as ekiben and kyaraben. Ekiben are often seen at train stations. Examples of kyaraben are popular online because the ingredients are made to look like characters or other objects.
Some toddlers have big appetites while others do not. There are also picky eaters who prefer to eat one thing all the time. Each child is unique and their diets are different too. But how much is enough for your growing toddler’s tummy and appetite?
How much food should I give my toddler?
Since toddlers are physically smaller than adults, they do not need as much food in one serving. In fact, according to healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics, your child should have approximately one-fourth of an adult’s serving.
There are five food groups – grains, fruits and vegetables, milk and alternatives, meat and other sources of protein, and fats and sugars. For each food group, your toddler should receive a certain number of portions per day. It’s also important to take note of the portion size for your toddler.
Recommended portions for your toddler
Grains will be the bulk of your child’s diet. Your little one needs six servings a day – a slice of bread, a tablespoon of cereal, and a tablespoon of potato, rice, or pasta. Your child will need 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. A tablespoon of vegetables per meal and a portion of fruit that will fit in the palm of your child.
Your toddler needs three portions of dairy and fats and sugars in a day. Try giving him milk, 100 grams of yogurt, and 20 grams of cheese. For the latter, as a basis, you can give 1 teaspoon of butter or honey. Finally, your child needs two servings of protein per day. You can give a tablespoon of minced eat, half a chicken breast, two tablespoons of beans, and an egg.
Bento Boxes for your Toddler
The different compartments of a bento box make it the ideal container for your toddler’s meals. You can place just the right number of grains, fruit, vegetables, and other snacks. Now, it’s time to choose the bento box for your little one.
What should I look for?
When looking for a bento box for your toddler, you would want something of the right size for their little hands – something that they can easily open too. Durability and make are important too. You would need something that is sturdy and can last several years, even if they are already in the first or second grade. Finally, something that is easy to clean and maybe microwave, dishwasher, or freezer safe as well.
Easy-to-Open Bento Boxes
If you’re sending your toddler to daycare or school, encourage their independence with an easy-to-open bento box. These bento boxes all have easy-open snaps or latches. Plus, their lids are made to match the compartments so these are leakproof. The lids are also attached to the body of the bento box which means your toddler will not lose the lid of his lunchbox.
Bentgo Kids has five compartments including one for at least two tablespoons of sauce – yes, you can add dips to your toddler’s snack. Although it’s a little heavy –a little over one pound, you can choose from different designs and it has a drop-resistant rim.
YumBox Original is a six-compartment bento lunchbox perfect for your toddler.. It comes with an educational tray for portions.
Personally, I’ve seen my toddlers bring smaller sized YumBoxes to class. They’re perfect for smaller portions. For something more compact, try the YumBox MiniSnack.
Simple Modern Porter Bento Box
Simple Modern has its own bento box for toddlers and older children. It comes with five compartments and weighs 1.75 pounds. Although on the heavy side, you can choose different colors and designs. What’s more is that when you buy from them, part of the profit they make is donated to non-profit organizations.
Kinsho Toddlers 5 Portion Control Sections
Kinsho’s five-portion bento box is made of BPA-free plastic. It comes with a removable tray and is top dishwasher and microwave safe. It is also drop-resistant, which means this bento box can last a long time with your little one. Choose from the designs they offer like dinosaurs or unicorns.
Bizz Bento Box
Bizz Bento Box is a portable bento box designed for children – including toddlers. It’s also considerate of parents because it has a removable tray for easier cleaning and is top dishwasher safe. The tray can also be microwaved for times your child has a hot meal.
Lightweight Bento Boxes
The next set of bento boxes are lightweight. They are all made of BPA-free plastic and unlike the first batch of bento boxes, these come with removable lids and even some removable compartments.
Lucentee Bento Lunchbox
Meal-planning has become easier for parents with this Lucentee Bento Lunchbox. It comes in a set of seven and has different colored lids. With three compartments, it’s easy to separate your child’s food while thinking about how much he will get.
LocknLock Square Divider
A classic kitchen staple in plenty of households, LocknLock has its own version of a bento box. With its signature rubber stopper on the lid, food will not spill from the inside. What’s more, you can choose from three sizes to match the appetite of your little one.
Easy Lunchboxes Snack Box Containers
These bento containers come in a set of four, each with four compartments. Easy Lunchboxes Snack Box Containers have bright lids that can be interchanged among containers. For busy parents, this can make the difference for storage options.
SkipHop Zoo Little Kid Lunch Kit
The SkipHop Zoo lunch kit can fit in its matching lunch bag or any other lunch bag that you have at home. Your toddler will also be able to manipulate the container by himself because of its easy snap clips. Encourage your toddler to take charge of his or her meals.
Stainless Steel Options
The material of a bento box is important, especially if it’s for your toddler. Not only should the bento be safe from accidental bumps and falls, it should also be safe for the food. The previously mentioned bento boxes are all made from non-toxic, BPA-free plastic. The following brands are all stainless steel. Although not microwaveable, they are an ecofriendly and long-lasting option.
Bentgo Kids Stainless Steel
Some parents opt for the stainless steel option for their children’s lunch containers, but not all of them are spill proof. This Bentgo Kids Stainless Steel bento box is one of the few, perhaps, the only stainless steel option that is leakproof.
Planetbox Shuttle Stainless Steel Lunchbox
Packing your child’s meal couldn’t be easier with this stainless steel bento box. With two compartments and a removable, leakproof sauce container, you’re sure to provide just the right amount of food for your little one. You can also add to the fun with the tray magnets. There are different designs to choose from.
Innobaby Din Din Smart Stainless Platter
Do you hear that? Your child’s food is coming through! This Din Din Smart Stainless Platter is actually not shaped like your common bento box, but it still has different compartments. Each compartment is measured for just the right amount of food for your tot.
LunchBots Small Protein Packer
The LunchBots Small Protein Packer is the preferred size for toddlers. There are other available sizes from the brand, but for your little one, this size is suggested. There’s enough space for one serving of all your child’s needs like protein, fruits, vegetables, and even dairy – cheese.
Although glass bento containers are not an option for most parents, here are a few worth considering. Introducing glass food containers to your little ones can teach them to be careful of their things. It’s a bit tricky, but this option is a teachable moment for all.
Glass Meal Prep Containers
These Glass Meal Prep Containers come in a set of five. It can be used by anyone in your family, from the tiniest to the tallest members. There are three compartments for portion control and colored lids for easier identification.
Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Container
The rubbers on the lid of these containers help keep your food in. Something that will be really useful for your toddler. Encourage your child to eat well-portioned meals with this glass meal prep container from Prep Naturals.
Bentgo also has a glass option for bento boxes. You can also choose between a two-compartment or a three-compartment bento box. What’s great about this bento box is it’s oven safe and can withstand up to 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. So if your child needs to reheat a meal, just pop off the lid and place this in the oven.
Hot and Cold Options
Each family prepares food differently. If you have toddlers who enjoy either hot or cold meals, these bento boxes might be the perfect match for them.
Bentgo Kids Chill
This Bentgo Kids Chill is similar to the Bentgo Kids. The only difference is that it comes with a removable ice pack. If you want to serve something a bit cold to your child, just place the ice pack in the freezer and snap it on under the tray before sending your child off to school or daycare.
If your little one loves to eat warm food like pasta or soup, this bento box is the one you need! The OmieBox comes with a removable, leakproof thermos food jar. Place it in the compartment and seal it and your child will be able to have his hot meal while in school.
Other Interesting Features
Our last list consists of bento boxes with interesting features. Some come with utensils, some are customizable, and one is even collapsible. Different options for different children and their families.
PlusPoint Leakproof Bento Lunch Box
This PlusPoint Leakproof Bento Lunch Box made the list because it comes with two containers, each with four leakproof compartments, and a spoon. The spoon actually fits in the lid which makes preparing your child’s meal easier for you.
Jeopace Bento Box
Another bento box that comes with utensils, this time, a spoon and a fork. The utensils will be placed under the lid, so this bento box might be for older toddlers.
Caleb Company Bento Boxes for Kids
The bento boxes from Caleb Company is flexible for your meal preparation needs. The compartments are removable, so you can adjust the amount of food your child will be getting.
PackIt Flex Bento
PackIt Flex Bento is another customizable bento box. However, this one has a removable container and flexible dividers. You can bend the dividers to make corner compartments if needed.
Smart Planet Collapsible Eco Meal Kit
This bento box not only comes with a utensil that nests in the lid, but it is also collapsible. This makes for easy storage for busy parents who want clear countertops and organized kitchens.
As parents, we only want what’s best for our little ones. With so many options available, it’s important to remember a few things. Choose what works best for your family and your lifestyle, don’t over complicate things. Second, think long-term, try to buy something that your child can use for the next few years. You can teach them how to be accountable for their belongings. Finally, try getting your family involved in meal preparations. Start them young and this can be the start of a new family bonding experience.
 Buck, Stephanie. “The Controversial History of the Bento Box – Timeline.” Medium, 5 June 2018, timeline.com/bento-box-history-27b04153c6f6.
 Coto Academy. “The Origins of the Traditional Japanese Bento” Coto Japanese Academy, 6 Oct. 2020, cotoacademy.com/traditional-japanese-bento.
 American Academy of Pediatrics. “Serving Sizes for Toddlers.” HealthyChildren.Org, 7 Mar. 2016, www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Serving-Sizes-for-Toddlers.aspx.
 Warwickshire Dietetic Service. Recommended Intake and Portion Sizes for Children. Warwickshire, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, 2016.
 Recommended Intake for Children. Warwickshire, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, 2016.